Coronavirus Precautions

By March 12, 2020Breaking News

Below is information regarding COVID-19, aka coronavirus, compiled by UFCW International. Please read through and take the necessary precautions to mitigate the impact of the virus in your workplace and home. Reps are out and about posting this information in worksite breakrooms. Stay safe out there!

What do we know about COVID-19 virus?
The COVID-19 virus is spreading from person to person, and there is now community transmission in the United States. It is still unclear if the virus lives on surfaces. There is evidence of transmission when people do not have symptoms, and there is some evidence to indicate that the virus is spread more easily than the flu.

Symptoms of COVID-19
SYMPTOMS of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath—similar to flu symptoms. The illness is mild in roughly 80 percent of the cases but can be severe in older persons and in those with underlying medical conditions and can be fatal.

Information on the outbreak is constantly evolving. See the links at the bottom of this page for the most up-to-date information.

Workers at Increased Risk within the UFCW membership
Working people are at increased risk if they frequently interact with potentially infected or infected individuals. Workers who are at increased risk include:
• Health care workers are among those at highest risk: including those who work in hospitals, long term care facilities and other health care settings;
• Workers who have been identified as “essential personnel” by their employers during an outbreak or quarantine; and
• Other workers with broad exposure to the public including retail workers.

How is the Virus spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
• Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
• Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
• People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
• Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Protection for Health Care Workers
The UFCW recommends that all potentially exposed health care workers have access to adequate supplies of N95 disposable, filtering facepiece respirators, which are commonly used in healthcare. Some employers have begun using respirators, such as elastomeric half-masks and Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs), which are even more protective than N95 respirators. Personal protective equipment also includes gloves, gown and face shield.

OSHA requires the employer to fit test workers annually, as well as when the worker has experienced significant weight fluctuation, dental work or other facial differences that would impact the seal of a tight-fitting respirator. PAPRs use hoods and do not require fit testing. Workers must be medically cleared to use respirators. All workers are entitled to training on respirator use. Surgical masks are never adequate for respiratory protection.

Workers responsible for cleaning patient rooms, treatment rooms and equipment must be provided appropriate PPE and training to protect them both from contracting the coronavirus and from the strong chemicals used to kill the virus. If the employer introduces new cleaning products into the facility, the workers are entitled to training on the product, as required by OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.

CDC recommends the following protocols for Infection Control Procedures in health care settings:
Patients with suspected coronavirus should be given a surgical mask and moved immediately into an isolation room, preferably a negative pressure room. The facility’s infection control plan should provide guidance on isolation, cleaning, sanitizing and sterilization of patient care equipment.

All personnel who enter the patient’s room should use standard, contact and airborne precautions—gowns, gloves, face shields and NIOSH-certified disposable N95 or stronger respirators, such as powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs). Surgical masks are not a substitute for respirators and do not protect the wearer. Donning personal protective equipment (PPE) should be done in the following order:
a. Wash or gel hands
b. Gown
c. Respirator
d. Face shield or goggles
e. Gloves

When removing or doffing PPE, the user should assume the exterior is contaminated. Doffing PPE should be done in this order:
a. Gloves
b. Eye cover
c. Gown
d. Respirator
e. Wash or gel hands

There should also be a facility protocol to evaluate workers who report fevers and symptoms after exposure to a suspected and/or confirmed infected patient. Employers should keep records of any worker infection, which should be investigated and presumed to be work-related unless proven otherwise.

Retail Workers
The main route of exposure for retail workers to the virus is through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.
Workers should have access to adequate supplies of alcohol-based hand sanitizers at the workstation as well as disinfectants to clean and disinfect workstations.

Frequently wipe down the workstation with disinfectant.

Take frequent breaks to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

Stay home from work if you exhibit symptoms of acute respiratory illness such as coughing or shortness of breath. CDC recommends that if you do become symptomatic, you should stay home and not come to work until you are free of fever and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).

Food Processing Workers
Workers in food processing plants work in close proximity to other workers. While you are not exposed to the public, you could be exposed if a co-worker or supervisor is sick or exhibits symptoms of illness.

Clean your hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol or wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.

There should be adequate supplies of soap and water in bathrooms, and alcohol-based hand sanitizers in the workplace.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Personal protective equipment, such as gloves, should be replaced on a regular basis.

Stay home from work if you exhibit symptoms of acute respiratory illness such as coughing or shortness of breath. CDC recommends that if you do become symptomatic, you should stay home and not come to work until you are free of fever and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).

PRIORITIES FOR THE UFCW for all industry sectors:
• Comprehensive workplace plans to identify potential exposure routes, controls to mitigate risk and training procedures.
• Protections for different groups of workers, following the Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines.
• Policies to encourage sick workers to stay at home without the loss of pay, benefits, seniority or other benefits.
• Economic policies for unemployment scenarios, where people are not able to be at work or are required to work overtime to take care of patients.
• Emphasis on personal hygiene practices, hand-washing and respiratory etiquette.
• Adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, especially N95 respirators, and respirator fit testing for highest at- risk worker, i.e. health care workers
• Protocols to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Protocols in case of a workplace or community outbreak, including possible self-quarantine or workplace quarantine.
• Plans for supply shortages, triage, prioritization and other contingencies.
• Consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before hosting and attending events or large gatherings. CDC recommendations may change as the situation evolves.

PROTECTING YOURSELF
WHO and CDC recommend that you take the following precautions for avoiding respiratory viruses:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
• Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
• Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
• Clean surfaces you often touch.
• Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick. (see Priorities for UFCW)

CDC doesn’t recommend that healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Only wear a mask if a health care provider tells you to do so. While masks can help prevent people who are already sick from spreading the illness, they’re not very effective for healthy people trying to avoid getting it. Health experts recommend washing your hands thoroughly and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

MORE INFORMATION
• U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration: osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/index.html
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html
https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/2020/han00428.asp
• World Health Organization: who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019